CAMP COLORADO: 1856-1875
by Phil Burroughs

Federal Control: 1856- 1861
Victory in the Mexican War added a vast new territory to the United States with much of it inhabited by savage Indians. To help cope with his problem, the Second United States Cavalry was formed under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston, on March 9, 1855. Since the primary mission was to guard the Texas frontier against the marauding Comanche Indians, Johnston issued orders to built a new fort between Fort Mason and Fort Belknap. Colonel Johnston specified that this fort would be located somewhere in the vicinity of where the Fort Belknap- Fort Mason road crossed the Colorado River. Major Earl Van Dorn along with Captain Theodore O`Hara and Companies A and F of the 2nd Cavalry were ordered to find a good location and built the fort.

"Camp Colorado was established August 2nd, 1856, and is six miles North of the Colorado River of Texas on the road leading from Fort Mason to Fort Belknap," according to the monthly Post Returns. This locale which is about four miles from present day Trickham, proved to be temporary. Several of the soldiers, unaccustomed to the climate, contracted malaria, so in 1857, the camp was moved to a place twenty miles north of the Jim Ned Creek.

Major Van Dorn leased 1,506 acres of land along the Jim Ned Creek and began building the fort. The complex consisted of officers quarters, officers kitchens, pickett house, set of company quarters, hospital building, store house, stable and the headquarters building occupied in May of 1859. Building was slow due to shortages of material, men, intensity of Indian raids, time consuming jobs of hauling supplies from San Antonio, and changes in command of the camp. From 1858 to 1859, no less than seven commanders, including Van Dorn¢s and Hood¢ s second hitch, trooped to camp Camp Colorado. Those who were assigned as commanders were Lt. J. H. Holman, Lt. J. B. Hood, Lt. J. H. McArthur, Cpt. Charles J. Whiting, and Edward K. Smith, the last of the Federal Commanders who arrived December of 1859.

An expedition went out under the command of E. Kirby Smith. They finally succeeded in overtaking the Indians far up on the Texas Plains. During the height of the battle two Indians ran out in front of the ranks, threw up their hands and shouted, "Me Squaw!" General Smith, knowing little about Indian wiles, ordered his men to stop firing, saying, "Don¢t shoot those squaws!" The soldiers immediately stopped, but the Indians kept right on going, feeling Smith with several arrows, two of which had to be left in his body until they could take him back to the post hospital. In the confusion, the Indians escaped, while the chagrined soldiers prepared to take their wounded leader back to camp. ( Gay, Setting Sun)

Because of the isolation of the camp and the rigorous discipline of Van Dorn, many men deserted the army. For those soldiers who remained, drinking, gambling and horseracing provided entertainment.

Callan¢s Minute Men & Confederate Control: 1861 to 1865
With the secession of Texas from the Union, February 1, 1861, Camp Colorado was relinquished by Captain Smith to Colonel H. E. McCulloch, ending the Federal Control and the Camp fell into the hands of the Southern Confederacy. After the departure of Federal Troops, several men commanded the States forces, namely Captain William Pitts, Captain Holmsley, James M. Norris, and Captain Frank M. Collier. Captain J. J. Callan relieved Collier shortly afterwards with his "Minute Men" Company which had been organized in Coleman County on July 27, 1861. All of the men were from Coleman County.

In January, 1865, one of the most outstanding Indian encounters took place near Dove Creek in the southwestern part of present day Tom Green County. A tribe of some 2,000 Kickapoo Indians were engaged in battle by approximately 600 Rangers, Confederates and Minute Men. Needless to say, the soldiers were defeated with twenty-six killed and about sixty wounded.

In 1863, Colonel James M. Norris resigned as commander of the Texas Mounted Regiment and Colonel J.E. McCord assumed command until 1864 when his regiment was transferred to the Confederacy. McCord was faced with the problems of supply, desertions and draft dodgers, not to mention the persistent Indian problems. Following McCord, Henry Fosset and Captain George Cook came to Camp Colorado where they remained until the close of the Civil War.

With low morale caused by lack of pay, no satisfying means of communication with their families, a sense of defeatism engendered in them by Confederate losses and Union successes, the defeat at Dove Creek and lack of supplies, the men began to desert in ever-increasing numbers. Finally in the spring of 1865, it was evident the South had lost the war and by order of J.B. Barry, the command was disbanded. So closes the era of Camp Colorado as a military post.

Elkin¢s Minute Men
Even though the Civil War was over and the soldiers had left, there still remained a need for protection of the settlers from Indian attacks and cattle rustlers. The settlers began to band together and consequently organized Coleman County in 1867 with a meeting of Commissioners Court which included J.S. Gossett, D.T. Key, W.T. Moss, and E.Y. Brown. Judge Malcom Hunter presided, L.D. Greaves was the county clerk and W.E. Costley was the sheriff.

Lt. John Elkins organized a company of Minute Men which was finally recognized by the Texas Legislature in 1874, allowing the members to be paid for past services. The Minute Men played an important role in the defense of Camp Colorado as did Captain Jeff Maltbv’s Company E of the Texas Rangers. One of Maltby`s men, Henry Sackett, later acquired the land upon which the camp was built.

An interesting story involving Maltby’s Rangers and the Kiowan Indian Chief Big Foot is told by Captain Maltby:

"Corporal Sackett, you stay with me, I will take Big Foot and you take his lieutenant, and then we will capture the squaw. Lieutenant, (Best) you take all the other men and take everything at the fire and north of the fire, and when we start, don’t hollow, let’s get right out; then before they know it, and now go, and the charge was sudden and desperate in strict keeping with the Texas Rangers. At the sound of the horses feet Big Foot and his lieutenant sprang to their horses, but before Big Foot could mount, Captain Jeff’s six shooter spoke its voice of death and Big Foot’s Horse fell dead. Big Foot then turned and aimed his Spencer rifle, but before he could pull the trigger, Captain Jeff’s pistol spoke again and its leaden messenger of death went to the mark knocking the hammer off of the Indian’s gun and driving it into his cheek, then glanced down striking him in the jugular vein and breaking his neck. The blood spurted high and Big Foot fell to rise no more, his career of crime ended."

The last of the Indian Battles had ended by 1874 and the main purpose of Camp Colorado had been accomplished. With the coming of the railheads in Kansas and the Western Trail ten miles west of Camp Colorado, Coleman was designated the county seat and so Camp Colorado was doomed. Today the original buildings are gone except for the original guard house on the back of the Sackett ranch house and store. Foundations of the buildings on the Jim Ned are visible. The Camp Colorado Cemetery lies a quarter of a mile east of the home and is the resting place for many those founders. A replica of the administration building is in the Coleman City Park.

Muster Roll for Captain J.J. Callan’s Company of "Minute Men": James J. Callan, Captain, Age 27; Frank W. Wilbourne, First Lieutenant, Age 25; Elisha Childress, Second Lieutenant, 25; Dudley Johnson First Sergeant, 18; Samuel Bailey, Sergeant, 32; Elbert Watts, Sergeant, 31; R.C. Morgan, Captain, 29; William Cox, Captain, 22; James F. Galkerson, Captain, 27; Isaac Blackwell, Private, 22; Elisha Briggs, Private, 21; Aaron Burke, Pvt., 22; H.M. Childress, Pvt., 27; William Edmundson, Pvt., 27; Thornton Govesyth, Pvt., 39; Henry Griffin, Pvt., 24; A. Hinesley, Pvt., 35; Malcom Hunter, Pvt., 22; Jesse Johnson, Pvt., 21; James Lindsey, Pvt., 26; B.J. Marshall, Pvt., 31; Jno. Mullins, Pvt., 31; William Mullins, Pvt., 29; W. R. Middleton, Pvt., 39; H. Nix, Pvt., 20; J.R. Rushing, Pvt., 30; Will Robinson, Pvt., 24; John Sheen, Pvt., 43; Thomas P. Shyne, Pvt., 25; W.P.B. Wilbourn, Pvt., 27; W.A. Williams, Pvt., 19; A.L. Watts.,Pvt., 45.

 

 

return to features index